Gone Viral: UNC Health's Approach to Social Media


Chris Steenstra

Chief Administrative Officer

Today’s near-constant connectivity has made information accessible on just about every device, everywhere—and it’s pushed the once-standard social media scroll from mindless entertainment to prime news source. Increasingly, people are turning to social media for healthcare information, wellness tips and even for self-diagnosis. And that’s priming the way for healthcare organizations to use social media to thread the needle between information distribution, patient advocacy and empowerment, and community engagement.

For UNC Health, North Carolina’s largest academic health system, the heightened focus on social media marked an opportunity to build and strengthen engagement with all patients—both current and potential.

“As a brand,” says Jamie McGurk, content and social media manager at UNC Health, “we strive to provide timely, professional and informative content for both potential patients and our community.” With more than 1.6 million patients in UNC’s network, the organization’s team sees social media as a way to spread impactful messaging effectively.

A 2023 report from Sprout Social, a popular social media management platform, found that 41% of respondents base their choice of hospital or medical provider on social media—and with healthcare organizations reporting a whopping 36 million social media impressions in that same year, it’s a powerful opportunity to deliver messaging on-brand and on-time.  

UNC Health had already begun creating YouTube short videos that were quickly gaining traction, highlighting everything from dangerous healthcare myths to NICU baby graduations (complete with tiny cap and gown). The takeoff of another style of video on the popular video-creation app TikTok, Things I’d Never Do, sparked another idea.

“We’ve seen steady growth in engagement with our YouTube shorts, specifically with our Emergency Department vs. Urgent Care series,” says McGurk. “We’ve also seen other creators use a similar style with the ‘things I would or wouldn’t do’ themes.” Tapping into that format, he worked with Jordan Cope, UNC’s Digital Marketing Coordinator, to create their “Things I’d Never Do” internet short series.

Taking urgent care providers’ advice on what not to do and presenting it as a compilation of short video bytes, the series successfully positions its information, and UNC’s providers, at its forefront. And it’s already seen rapid success, with their top 5 YouTube shorts generating 1.7 million organic views since December. To keep that momentum, UNC Health’s social media team has set a production schedule of five to eight reels a week, supplemented with the UNC Health Talk blog that uses UNC doctors, nurses, researchers and other providers as subject matter experts.

But engaging with those audiences is just as important as reaching them: In fact, a Healthcare Today study found that engagement—both on social media and through other channels—is a key factor driving patient retention.

“The best social media is a two-way street, so we always keep an eye on our comments and feedback,” says McGurk. “Not every comment needs a reply, but if people are engaging authentically, we do our best to answer questions and reply appropriately as needed.”

And, knowing that social media trends are constantly in flux, UNC Health’s social media team is ready to adapt. “We’re always keeping an eye on trending sounds and social trends, like our recent ‘mini mic’ series,” says Cope, “and we’ll continue to adapt our style and content moving forward.” 

With social media engagement like this? No need for take two.

Hey! Our name is pronounced Mōw-rrr, like this thing I’m pushing.

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